Is 5160 steel good for knives? – [Complete Steel Guide]

5160 steel knife

Being a knife user or a knife maker, we always search for the best steel for our knives, and in a point of the search, we usually bump into the 5160 Steel, so if you’re in the same position, and you wish t know more about it, you’re in the right place.

If you’re wondering if the 5160 steel is a good steel for knives, The answer is Yes. It has what its need to be, therefore if you wish to understand why I’ll answer all the common questions about 5160 Steel (like What is it? What is its chemical composition? What is its hardness? How hard is it? Is it good or no ? and other questions) in this blog post.

It’s low -end Allo Spring steel high in Carbon and Chromium. It’s very tough steel with high impact resistance. It’s used for swords, large knives, the automotive industry, and leaf spring.

Spring steel is a nomination given to low-alloy manganese, medium-carbon steel, or high-carbon steel with a high yield strength(In simple words, it takes its original shape after banding).

It’s designation  “5160” is based on the main elements used in the alloy. The first two digits “51” refers to “5” and “1”, the “1” represent Carbon and the last two digits “60” represent the percentage of Carbon in the alloy, so if you read “5160” you will understand that it has 0.6% Carbon due to the “1” in the first digits and “60” of the last two.

5160 steel review

5160 steel chemical composition

  • 0.64% of Carbon: It improves hardness and wear/corrosion resistance, but a high amount of it decreases strength.
  • 0.9% of Chromium: For tensile strength and Edge retention, and enhances corrosion resistance and wear resistance.
  • 1% of Manganese: Increases hardness and brittleness.
  • 0.04% of Sulfur: Increases machinability.

As you can see, the 5160 steel has a mixture of Carbon, Chromium, and Manganese, which makes it a spring alloy.

How hard is 5160 steel? – 5160 steel hardness

With a hardening capability of 57-58 HRC, 5160 is very hard steel.

If you wish to know more about the meaning of “HRC” or “Rockwell hardness” read this blog post.

5160 steel properties

According to the chemical composition and the HRC of the steel, the 5160 Steel has the following features:

Edge Retention: with a maximum HRC of 60, the steel offers great edge retention, but not the best compared to carbon steels.

Corrosion Resistance: with a low Chromium presence (0.9%), the 5160 steel offers low corrosion resistance.

Wear Resistance: the mixture of carbon, chromium, and Mangneseum offers a great wear resistance.

Sharpness: The harder the knife, the harder to sharpen it, it’s not the case for our 5160, it’s easy to sharpen.

Machinability:   it’s very hard steel for machining, and the steel needs to be annealed before machining for maximum speeds and feeds.

Welding: Due to the high Carbon and Chromium in this Steel, it has a poor Weldability.

Toughness: 5160 has a high toughness due to its mix of Chromium, Manganese and Carbon.

Heat Treatment: In general, 5160 is hardened in oil. For quenching, the best temperature is 1525 F, and the tempering is between 800- 1300 F.

Forging: The Steel is forged between 1149°C -1204°C or 2100°F – 2200°F

Will 5160 steel rust?

Yes, It will Rust, it has a low Corrosion Resistance due to the low Chromium in the Alloy, therefore, if you have a 5160 knife, don’t forget to oil once a week and to clean up your knife after usage.

Is 5160 steel good for knives?

My answer is Yes, the 5160 is a great steel for knives, in exception of corrosion resistance it has good edge retention, good hardness, great toughness and wear resistance, therefore if you are looking for a very affordable steel knife who resists “the beating” 5160 steel knife is a great choice.

But if you work in a wet environment, you’re a fisherman, hunter, diver, or you use it in the kitchen, I wouldn’t recommend the 5160 steel since it’s prone-corrosion, it’s going to rust very quickly.

Best 5160 Knives

Buck Knives 110 Folding Hunter Knife

The old 110 Buck, always a great knife to own, it has a 3.75” Drop point blade made from the 5160 carbon steel, with an Oak Dymondwood handle, Buck offers a forever warranty on their knives, including the 110, it’s a great EDC Knife, that’s ready for cutting all day long, it can handle hard tasks too, the only downside of it is it low corrosion resistant, you should always take care of it (you’re supposed to do it to all types of knives even if they are high-end knives), some oil or knife Vaseline and you’re ready to go, and it comes with a good leather sheath, all of this for a reasonable price.

5160 VS Steel

In this section, we’re going to compare our steel with other steels, and for this, I use four criteria; Edge Retention, Corrosion resistance, Ease of Sharpness, and Toughness, and I use a scale or note from 1 to 10.

5160 VS 1095

51601095
EDGE RETENTION2/103/10
EASE OF SHARPNESS9/107/10
CORROSION RESISTANCE3/103/10
TOUGHNESS10/108/10

1095 offers the same performance with lower toughness compared to 5160.

Conclusion

Either you’re a knife maker or Knife User, keep in mind 5160 steel knives are great, but they need proper maintenance and cleaning otherwise, you’re going to end up with a rusty knife, but in all, it’s a great steel for large knives and swords, very tough but bad for machining (Which explains why it’s not very popular in small knives).

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